Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

God's Dwelling

This coming Sunday, we are beginning a book study in Ephesians. For the next several months, we will be walking through Paul’s letter. I have to admit, some of the passages are going to be challenging. Paul delves deep into God’s salvation plan and articulates our role in this plan. He paints a picture of a church functioning as God intended. Early on, Paul’s speaks in Trinitarian terms. He highlights the role of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

As I study the epistle, I am struck by the role of the Holy Spirit. Paul describes our role as members of God’s household (2:19), as a temple (2:21) and as a dwelling for God (2:22). We can picture ourselves as a part of God’s family. As brothers and sisters, children of the Father, we easily adopt family language. Yet to consider ourselves as the dwelling of God is astounding. Shane Claiborne in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals relates,

The early church used to say, “God became man that we might become God.” Certainly none of us is God alone, but all of us are God’s body together. God has chosen to have no hands but ours, no feet but ours.

Paul puts it this way.

(Ephesians 2:22 NIV) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

We often individualize our faith. In a world where personal choice and preferences rule, we are conditioned to order from the menu. Yet the Kingdom of God is more like a homestyle dinner. We pass the bowl around and share in the bounty. And together God dwells in us.

As a discerning body, we are empowered by the Spirit of God. We are assured of His wisdom and direction. Yet we must function together; unity is essential for discernment. One may ask if such unity is a pipe dream. Is it possible for diverse individuals to collectively discern the Spirit of God? What if we end up with differing solutions? What if we cannot reach consensus? We often fail to be unified because we have not seriously discerned together. We pray in isolated chambers; solitary lives keep our individual agendas primary. May we learn to inhabit Paul’s vision for the Ephesian church. May our hearts and minds fuse together under the direction of the Spirit. May unity distinguish our churches from the bureaucratic structures that frustrate. May we house the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to lead us forward in the Kingdom of God.